There are so many different new allegations of sexual misconduct today involving Donald Trump that it’s easy to lose track of them all. Here’s a partial list:
* A makeup artist alleging in the Guardian that Trump attempted to rape her:
* A reporter for People Magazine alleging that Trump sexually assaulted her during a 2005 interview;
* A New York Times story detailing similar allegations by two other women;
* A CNN anchor relaying a friend’s story of a similar encounter with Trump in a corporate boardroom;
* A BuzzFeed report that five separate Miss Teen USA beauty pageant contestants allege that trump repeatedly entered contestants’ dressing rooms while they were dressing. The youngest contestant involved was fifteen;
* In 1997, the year Trump celebrated replacing “Miss Piggy” Alicia Machado as Miss Universe, a then-21-year-old Miss USA contestant alleges that Trump sexually assaulted her and several other contestants;
* In addition to his decades of lecherous behavior at his beauty pageants, Rolling Stone reports, Trump told Howard Stern in 2005 that as pageant owner, it might be his obligation to have sex with the contestants;
* A local Palm Beach, Florida woman who is claiming that Trump groped her.
The new allegations span three decades, including as recently as 2013, and range from instigating numerous unwanted kisses, including with minors, to groping, to attempted rape and leering at a ten-year-old girl. Most have come forward as a result of Trump’s explicit denial of such behavior in the presidential debate Sunday night. They are of a piece with the video released last Friday of Trump bragging to Billy Bush about his unwanted sexual exploits, and of his first wife’s allegations that Trump repeatedly raped her.
Any one of these allegations would, by itself, pose a problem for Trump. Taken as a whole, they’re a political death warrant. At this point, there are so many different allegations that most people (and especially sane people) won’t track them all – but the narrative is clear, and so overwhelming that no efforts at denial or damage control will help Trump. Politically, he is now radioactive outside his fanboy base. Even worse, culturally, he is becoming both a punchline and a figure whose exploits parents want to shield their children from hearing, let alone experiencing.
There’s no way, politically speaking, that Trump survives this. And with ballots printed and already being distributed in a number of states, there’s no way at such a late date for the Republican Party to substitute a less toxic nominee.
The unfortunate part of this – beyond Trump’s alleged crimes themselves, of course – is that those crimes so overshadow the other reasons he’s a dangerous and grossly inappropriate candidate that it will be impossible, no matter how overwhelming the electoral verdict, for those other elements to be repudiated. Half of the country has been seriously willing to elect to the presidency a man who is clearly a con artist in his business and media dealings, whose public policy preferences would be globally disastrous, and whose many seemingly legitimized forms of racism and bigotry pose an enormous and direct risk to women, people of color, immigrants, sexual and religious minorities, the disabled, youth, the poor, and just about everyone else in the world who can be plausibly labelled an Other. Half of the country is still susceptible to some other future candidate whose appeals to the worst in us don’t come linked with such clearly disqualifying baggage.
That candidate will come. The problem posed by Trump’s ascendance has never been Trump; it’s the tens of millions of Americans who’ve supported him, who’ve thought that electing him would be a good idea (or at least not so bad), and who are still with us after he falls.
The task right now for progressives, for Democrats, and for the Clinton campaign isn’t to gloat, or to look away in disgust. It’s to tie Trump to every Republican running for state or federal office, whether they’ve explicitly supported Trump or simply continued to ally themselves with the party that nominated him.
Short of slow-moving demographic change, this is the best chance Democrats will have in the foreseeable future to regain control of Congress, and with it, the Supreme Court as well, to end the campaign of hate and obstruction that has gridlocked the federal government during the Obama presidency, and that has made life unnecessarily miserable for those many millions of people trapped in states dominated by Tea Party Republican officeholders. If this can’t shake loose Republicans’ base of power, nothing will.
Sadly, Hillary Clinton is one of the weakest imaginable standard-bearers for such an effort. Her campaign has, until very recently, shown little interest in generating the kind of grass roots enthusiasm needed for significant coattails. It’s the Clinton wing of the party that has, over the past decade, dismantled the “50 State Strategy” that would have allowed her party to take advantage of a red state political opening like this. And while her campaign platform, especially on domestic issues, has been far more progressive than many activists give her credit for, much of the tone of an administration is set by its appointments – and the people surrounding Hillary are largely the same elitist corporate technocrats responsible for the worst elements in her husband’s policies.
Right now, none of that matters. The task now is not only to defeat Donald Trump – which Trump himself has helped make nearly inevitable – but to deal a mortal blow to the whole structure of know-nothing obstructionism that has, for example, prevented a coordinated federal response to climate change for three decades.
The flaws of Clinton or any other single Democrat pale by comparison to this once-in-a-generation political opening.